If history has taught us anything, it’s that great houses tend to fall: The House of Tudor, the Ming Dynasty, the Roman Empire, France in the Time of Napoleon—all of which rose and collapsed in a blaze of glory.
So, too, will gingerbread houses rise and fall when you totally wing their construction. I speak these words of truth.
And I can only blame myself.
For the record, I am not a fan of written instructions. I’ll follow a recipe only if it’s short, and I’ll put together a bookcase solely by instinct. I jump feet first into the fray without considering the proper order or outcome of things. Sometimes, I even get away with it and nod smugly at myself, knowing I wasted no time.
I thought this was one of those times, because this is how our (very first ever) gingerbread house looked.
Hold your uproarious applause and accolades, though, because 38 minutes later, it looked like this:
It all began with a lovely (dairy-free/egg-free) molasses dough (courtesy of food.com):
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup margarine
1 egg, beaten (or 1 ½ tsp Ener-G egg replacer + 2 Tbs water)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- In a medium saucepan, heat sugar, molasses, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves to boiling, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat; stir in soda (it will foam up).
- Stir in margarine till melted.
- With a fork, stir in egg (or egg replacer), then flour.
- On a floured surface, knead dough till mixed. Divide dough in half, wrap half with plastic wrap; set aside.
- Roll half the dough, with a rolling pin, slightly thinner than 1/4 inch.
- Cut your house shapes.
- Bake at 325F on a cookie sheet for 12 minutes; cool on a wire rack.
I carved the dough into six 3×5 rectangles: 4 for the walls, 2 for the roof. That was my first mistake. The roof slats needed to be taller than the rest of the pieces—construction basics I did not know.
The Lessons Learned
There were lots of other mistakes I made along the way. I could have saved the construction team—me, GB, the boys, my brother SC and his sweetheart, Kelli—a lot of trouble if I’d just done my research.
I don’t want you to make the same mistakes and then watch your hard work topple into disrepair. So please, heed this advice I’m paraphrasing from How to Assemble a Christmas Gingerbread House on eHow.com:
1) Prep like a pro: Make sure all your tools are at your fingertips.
2) Pick your platter: It should be flat and sturdy, like foil-covered cardboard or a pretty dish. Lay a piece of string across the surface.
3) Lay your base: Place a dab of icing in the center of your base, then place a small box on top of the dab. Make sure the peaked walls run parallel to the string.
4) Frame up: Dab icing along the sides of the box, then pipe the corners. Press your walls firmly against the box.
5) Raise the roof: Smooth icing along the top edges of the walls, then use those edges to help prop the roof pieces against one another to create two slopes. Pipe icing along the peak.
6) Tie it: Pull the ends of the string up and over the roof, then tie them at the peak to secure the roof and wall frames while they dry.
7) Be patient: Wait an hour or so, then remove the string and decorate.
The Hope for a New Tomorrow
Although it was a blow to watch our empire tumble, all was not lost. Amid the smoldering embers of catastrophe, the gingerbread men and women persevered.
It is for them—and only them—that I shall forge on in my efforts and try again next year.
~*~ Find me on Twitter @36×37
~*~ Visit the 36×37 facebook page